Chief Executive Officer at CleverTap By Mastufa Ahmed
What's the top change in the post-pandemic tech industry landscape?
Technology adoption; tech companies have had to focus not only on innovation and digital transformation but also on sustainability, collaboration, and agility
What about the Great Resignation?
Companies should introspect on why employees are quitting: post-pandemic, people want to focus on more purpose-driven jobs with better work-life balance
What tools are tech companies adopting?
State-of-the-art data centre and edge capabilities, cloud computing, customised Internet-of-Things to predict any issues, sense and report inputs across distributed networks, etc
Top uses of technology in the current landscape?
Improve processes and customer experiences
Your own use of technology?
Enabling our customers to understand and engage with their users better
How do you see the hybrid model playing out? Hybrid models help in increasing productivity, making employees more efficient and delivering better and faster results
practical and here to stay – they help in increasing productivity, making employees more efficient and delivering better and faster results
How is your own company implementing hybrid?
We have left it to employees to choose if they’d like to work remotely or from the office until 2023.
So what should companies do?
Start catering to the new talent pool, align their work culture to suit the younger generations
Will that help with the Great Attrition?
As long as companies continue to listen and evolve along with their employees, leaders will be able to address the attrition problem and ascertain ways to retain their employees
Your own priorities for 2022 and beyond?
Growth and expansion, adding to our leadership team, innovation on our product offerings
HR as tHe acceleRatoR: tRansfoRming business foR tHe futuRe
hr ANd trANsFormAtioN go hANd iN hANd uNder the right leAdership. iN AN exClusive CoNversAtioN with people mAtters, BRaNDI mORaNDI, the ChieF legAl ANd humAN resourCes oFFiCer oF eQuiNix, tells us how she ANd her teAm hAve built AN iNCredibly stroNg ANd uNiQue positioN iN the exeCutioN oF the busiNess strAtegy By Mint Kang
Brandi Galvin Morandi, the Chief Legal and Human Resources Officer of global digital infrastructure company Equinix, has an unusual background for a HR leader. She started her career in law and spent over five years as a corporate attorney with international business law firm Gunderson Dettner before moving to Equinix in 2003, where she took on the roles of Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel, and Secretary.
In that position, Morandi built a very strong working relationship with the human resources leaders and the HR function, such that when leadership turnover meant an interim CHRO was needed in 2013, she was appointed to the role while still performing her original role in the law department. It was not the last time.
Over the course of 19 years with Equinix, Morandi served as interim CHRO three times, and the last time, in 2018, coincided with the appointment of the new global CEO, Charles Meyers. Meyers began his tenure by developing a transformation strategy for the company, and Morandi, as interim CHRO, took the lead on a number of projects. She established an excellent rapport and operating cadence with Meyers and continued strengthening her relationship with the HR leadership team, building on 16 years of trust with the rest executive team, and eventually, Meyers asked her to serve as CHRO permanently – which she accepted alongside her role as Chief Legal Officer.
Your legal background is unique among HR leaders! How
does it influence the way you approach HR matters?
There are two main ways. Firstly, on the legal side a great deal of focus is placed on understanding the company's risk profile and the risks that you're taking on. As an in-house lawyer you must either know how to mitigate that risk, or be willing to accept it. You're constantly in a state of compromise, and the easiest thing is to just say, “No, you can't do that.” What's hard is creating an avenue to achieve the goal while still mitigating risk, and so a deep understanding of the business is required: you must know what's really important and critical, what is that line in the sand that you will not cross from a risk perspective, and where you can be flexible.
That knowledge and deep understanding of working with all of the different functions across the team translates really well into understanding what is going to be an effective people strategy.
Secondly, within the legal function there is a mindset where we must solve for the business and prioritise such that we are applying our critical, precious resources toward the most important things, filtering out the bulk of what is not as important and focusing our efforts to really try to move the needle on those critical few things. This translates well across both teams, especially because in HR, it's very easy to get excited about our own programmes. Wearing my legal hat helps me to keep looking through that lens of solving for the business strategy, ensuring that what we're delivering will be used and is relevant for what we're trying to do at the time. It shapes a certain mindfulness around making good use of resources, both from a dollars perspective and a people perspective.
Tell us about the HR function at Equinix. How are you leading HR to play a role in the transformation strategy?
At Equinix, HR is not at all a back office function. Across the board, and especially within the executive team, HR is very much seen as a as a business enabler and accelerator. We have been leading from the front on the transformation to enable the business's strategy: our team is actually the site of the Transformation Office. And a big part of that is because if you don't have the right people working on the right things and exhibiting the right behaviours, you can't meet your strategic objectives.
What we discussed earlier, about coming into HR from a different part of the business, also plays a role in our ability to drive trans-
formation. I know what it feels like to be a customer of HR. So when we're strategising or even just thinking about how we want to communicate our plans, I can hear it through a different ear and find a way to present it that makes sense to the rest of the business. For instance, if we want to launch a particular talent strategy, we need to make sure that people understand how this is going to help us achieve the business results we want to achieve.
And of course, I have also established a wonderful, trust based relationship with my CEO. He knows that I personally, and functionally everyone in HR, are in service to the Equinix agenda to make sure that the business's success is our success. And so he sees us as a key partner.
Trust-based relationships are so important in the world of work, especially after the last few years. Can you share some tips on building that critical level of trust?
First, it starts at the personal level: with never compromising your integrity. When I talk to our more junior leaders, I always tell them that as you progress in your career, it's all about people trusting your judgement, because if it was straightforward and clearly within a process or a guideline, it wouldn't land on your desk. In every interaction that you have, I believe you're either building or eroding trust.
And transparency is important: following through on your commitments, wearing your corporate hat rather than pursuing your functional or personal agenda. Those are all ways to build trust over time, and when you get to a role like mine, where I'm sitting in front of the board and advising – whether it's from a legal perspective or an HR perspective – they know that I am coming from a place of genuinely recommending what I think is best for Equinix with no personal agenda involved.
The other way I think that you can build trust is through vulnerability, being able, as a leader, to acknowledge that I don't have all the answers, and that's why I surround myself with other highly competent people who also want
If you don't have the right people working on the right things and exhibiting the right behaviours, you can't meet your strategic objectives
to do what's best for Equinix. There must be a willingness to say: “I don't know what to do next. Can you help me?” and to invest in one another.
I think that's really important, because you build the most trust when people know that they don't have to be perfect, that we are going to find the right solution together and not be fixed to any one person's perspective. And that touches on diversity, equity, and inclusion – it goes straight into the core tenets of what inclusion looks like. Is everybody contributing their unique ideas for a better outcome?
In short, vulnerability and acknowledging that you don't have all the answers, and then just doing what you say you're going to do time and time again. That's a very practical way to build trust in the organisation.
Going back to the strong understanding of risks that you've gained from your legal background, what do you see as the greatest human capital risks that organisations face today?
One risk that everybody is monitoring is, of course, the Great Resignation. There's a lot involved here: how deep in an or-
You build the most trust when people know that they don't have to be perfect, that we are going to find the right solution together and not be fixed to any one person's perspective
ganisation will it go, is it impacting tech or frontline, what is happening with the attrition rates, how is compensation holding up against changing market standards? We have to pay attention to a lot of different metrics and data to make sure that we aren't going to lose people. And that's just retention. Attraction of top talent is another issue, and this one is particularly acute for us because we're going through a strategic transformation and thinking differently about our products and services. And so we're trying to attract new types of skill sets into the company in order to make sure that we can be competitive in our existing space, let alone a new environment.
Another thing that's top of mind coming out of the pandemic is employee wellness. I think overall, there is a lot of fatigue in the system. People have been through a lot personally and professionally, whether they are managing or leading or just showing up every day with a good attitude. And so we need to make sure that we're taking great care of our employees from a wellness perspective as well, as part of an overall retention strategy. And then of course, as we bring people back into the office and follow a global strategy of moving to a hybrid work environment, we need to look into how we can keep people engaged and productive yet also offer this flexibility that they have come to enjoy.
Discussions of risk usually involve processes and governance as part of risk management – do you think this approach works for HR?
I think it can work in some areas where the risks are compliance based risks: local employment laws, for example. But it's important to remember that one size does not always fit all in HR, especially when it comes to people. This is not only from a legal and regulatory perspective, but also the cultural element and what is really going to resonate with the team. In my experience, rigidity isn't always the best or the most effective approach. We need to find something that's locally acceptable while still broadly following global standards – we always need
to make sure that we're looking through that local lens. This can be complicated, because sometimes when we want to move forward with a global process, it can be out of step with the local market, or vice versa. And of course, local markets can be vastly different even within the same country. That said, I do think it's possible to trickle global standards down to local markets without encountering major friction. It requires a lot of attention and investment, but it can be done. Take DE&I as an example: we have global protocols and global employee connection networks, what some companies call employee resource groups. And we also have a local forum to take these global principles and discuss them in a way that feels relevant for the local market. Our values are non-negotiable – that is the global protocol – but how that shows up in any given market may look different.
What do you think the future of HR will look like, maybe in the next few years or even in the next decade?
I think there's going to be more prominence around the role of HR as change accelerators and enablers. The concept of what change looks like in an organisation is going to explode, and HR will have to be there to help the organisation accelerate the pace of decisions and change. There will be a cultural element to it for sure: maintaining what's great about your existing culture, but then introducing the new behaviours and skills that are going to be required to achieve your strategic direction. And HR will definitely have to spend a lot of time getting employees into the right mindset, because most people start from a place of not liking change.
The industry is moving fast. We've just been through an unprecedented time, but business momentum never stopped, and now there's a backlog of execution coming. We have to be prepared to support and enable it, and even hopefully accelerate it.
For this, HR itself will need to undergo a shift of mindset, from being a curator of processes to an enabler of business strategy. There is always a certain pressure towards consumerisation of HR, and while this will continue, there also must be constant attention given to the question of how we are integrating into overall business process and strategy. HR is going to drive the behaviours that are required, by compensating people, giving them the tools that they need, incentivising them to achieve the business strategy. Transformation and HR will interlock around culture.
Daniel Kahneman’s five pragmatic mantras to improve workplace judgement
Decision bias is pervasive within our society and is similarly highly prevalent within the workplace. Nobel laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman, the pioneer of behavioural economics, has dedicated his life to understanding the psychology of judgment and decision-making, and in his groundbreaking research, he demonstrated one simple truth – people are not immune to prejudice and favouritism because it would be difficult to function without them. However, implementing strategies to reduce bias in the workplace can do wonders.
While the Great Resignation continues to test HR leaders, we must find effective ways to eliminate bias to improve the employee experience and business outcomes. To learn ways our thinking can be flawed and to make more informed and rational decisions, we sat down with Professor Kahneman at People Matters TechHR Singapore, and came away with five valuable mantras that you can use in dayto-day HR work to make sound decisions.
A key determinant of success in business is making the right decision at the right time. At People Matters TechHR Singapore this year, we proudly presented a conversation with Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman on how to avoid errors of judgement. Here, we bring you key takeaways from the event
By Samriddhi Srivastava
1Standardise structured interviews The interview is a crucial stage of the hiring process which tells you about the candidates beyond their resumes. Among the two types of interviews; unstructured and structured, Professor Kahneman strongly recommends adopting a structured interview format to avoid inaccurate hiring decisions.
The difference between structured and unstructured interviews lies in questions. While the structured format comprises predetermined questions, unstructured ones are spontaneous and the next questions emerge from the answers to the prior questions. Hence, it is unorganised, leading to asking unnecessary questions, being biased and making imprecise recruitments.
“Structured interviews are planned and are designed to cover certain topics and address specific segments about the candidate. You can include open and close-ended questions to get an insight into the candidate’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes. However, don’t do this without intuition, just delay that instinct within an interview or delay it in general to eliminate bias,” he explained.
2Minimise risks with analytical judgement Flaws in judgement are not just restricted to hiring a new candidate for the job. Within an organisation, when it comes to performance reviews, biases have a huge impact. It can lead to the inflation or deflation of employee ratings, which can have serious implications, further affecting performance assessments such as promotion, compensation, hiring, or even firing decisions.
To refrain from making such errors, Kahneman advised gathering and considering information in length before making a big decision. He said, “You have a general impression of employees. When you have to make an unbiased decision, records and evidence can be very useful. Get in a habit of making notes about salient events. Then, during the final evaluation, go through those notes. You may discover that you have a very positive impression, but actually, there have been many problems with that individual.”
Business leaders are not immune to noise, the flaw in human judgement, and hence, they and the brand lose more than time, money and effort
3Navigate noise to foster a positive workplace Professor Kahneman describes noise as an "undesirable variability in judgments", something that pushes humans to make decisions that prove to be life-changing, without putting the necessary thought into it. Business leaders are not immune to noise, the flaw in human judgement, and hence, they and the brand lose more than time, money and effort by making bad hires.
“The price that companies pay when noise is involved in hiring is bringing in people who perhaps shouldn't have been brought on in the first place. That’s why leaders mustn’t rely on intuitions, such as whether they're liked by their superior or whether they have support. The key is to focus on the facts, not feelings and give the situation considerable time so that you have adequate stretch to collect information,” said Kahneman.
4Be confident, not overconfident The Nobel Prize laureate believes strongly that confidence is good, but overconfidence is dangerous. It all starts with intuition, followed by the lack of feedback. As you keep making intuitive judgements without any assessment, you become overconfident in your choices as a leader. That’s why Professor Kahneman suggested always going for a subjective sense of expertise.
“People need intuition, as it gives you the sense that you understand the situation, further making you a confident leader. However, if achieved too early, confidence can be dangerous, because it’s an indication that you’re no longer collecting information. That’s the problem with
In the end, try to draw conclusions based on objective facts and not intuition
“On the other hand, intuition with all its flaws, is necessary, but with the help of feedback. If leaders are not getting feedback, they develop a subjective sense of expertise. They think they’re getting better at understanding and judgement, but you’re not. With passing time, when you don’t get feedback, you start agreeing with yourself and when you do that, it makes you overconfident."
5Rethink decision-making techniques Effective decision-making in today’s complex and disrupted business environments can be achieved by being analytical. To accomplish the same, Professor Kahneman shared three attributes: A. Measurement of noise Measure noise, study, and ask questions. “In hiring candidates, it’s crucial to know if different people reached the same conclusions or not. You can assess this by systematic studies, in which different people interview the same candidate or by making people see the same film of the interview. Then analyse if different individuals have distinct opinions. That’s how you will find out there is more noise than you thought there was,” said Kahneman. B. Reduction of noise Once you know there is noise involved in the process, the next step is to reduce it. “For noise reduction, case conferences are very important. People influence each other very quickly. As a leader, you must minimise those influences with the help of strategic independent discussions,” he added. C. Intelligent discussion With different people looking at the same case, you’ll realise how people see one situation in different ways. The point is to “acknowledge variability as it can be very useful in making sound judgments. Thereafter, encourage people to ask questions so that every individual can share their point of view. In the end, try to draw conclusions based on objective facts and not intuition,” concluded the pioneer of behavioural economics.
With different people looking at the same case, you’ll realise how people see one situation in different ways. The point is to “acknowledge variability as it can be very useful in making sound judgments